DIY: How to Work with Lilacs

Project and Photos By: Chelsea Fuss
Are you dreaming of a fragrant lilac bouquet for your wedding day? It’s easy to make your own but there are a few things you should know when working with lilacs. Here are some insider florist tips for working with these delicate spring flowers.
Always buy extra lilacs, Inevitably some of them will wilt early, as they are a very delicate flower. Buy twice as much as what you think you will need. Choose lilacs that are budded or just starting to open, because once you start arranging them, they will begin opening very quickly.
There are two ways to trim a lilac stem. It’s important to get this part right because the stems of lilacs are very woody and if they aren’t trimmed properly, they won’t drink water. You can use these tricks for other woody stemmed flowers like viburnum and cherry blossom.
You can snap the stem, which tears the stem open and allows it to absorb water easily. Just take two hands and break the stem in half.
You can also cut the stem at an angle with a pair of sharp clippers. Then, slice once or twice, straight up the stem as shown in the photo. Always cut between the nodes- the small bumps in the stems.
After you trim your lilacs, put them in a bucket of deep, lukewarm water for a few hours, in a cool, dark place, away from bright sunlight.
If you do encounter some wilted stems, make sure they have been trimmed and are resting in deep water. If they still wilt, submerge the whole flower in a bucket of hot water for a five minutes. Then, re-trim the stem and put the stem in a bucket of lukewarm water. Within a few hours, your lilac should be revived!
Before arranging, take as many leaves as possible off the stems, so the flower can use the water for the blossoms instead of the leaves. Strip the lower stems of any leaves or flowers, as those will create bacteria in the water and make the flowers die more quickly. Do leave a few leaves though on the upper end of a few stems, as they make a lovely accent in a bouquet.
Keep your bouquet in water right until it’s ready for use. It’d be extra smart to make two bouquets if you are getting married on a hot summer day. Have one waiting in a cool, dark place (perhaps in a fridge, away from food) in cool water. If your bouquet starts to fade, you can switch to a new bouquet half way through the day!
Lilacs are available in late spring, usually April-May. White lilacs are available from Holland as early as January, but will be much more expensive that time of year. If you are set on lilacs but their bloom time doesn’t coincide with your wedding date, consider these alternatives:
Butterfly Bush: a purple, summertime flower with a similar shape to the lilac. It usually comes in dark purple.
Hyacinth: This spring flower is available from greenhouses starting in December and available through May. They are much easier to secure ahead of time than lilacs. They are fragrant and have a similar shape to lilacs, though much smaller. They are available in pink, white, deep blue, lavender, and sometimes yellow.
Blooming Privet: This unusual flower comes from the common shrub, privet and is a gorgeous alternative to lilacs. Available in the late summer to early fall, the flowers aren’t fragrant but will certainly give your wedding the same feel as lilacs. They are available in white.
Happy flower arranging!
Last Updated: August 17, 2015 at 9:39 pm
Tags: DIY, Flowers
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